Thu 1 Jun 2023

Celebrating Volunteers Week at Theatre by the Lake

Theatre by the Lake has been recognised as “the most beautifully located and friendly theatre in Britain”! This friendliness is mainly thanks to our amazing volunteers who meet every audience member as they arrive to see a show! We would like to thank them all for all their time, passion and commitment over the years.

June 1 – 7 2023 is Volunteers Week and we’ve asked a few of out volunteers to tell us more about themselves, what it means to volunteer at Theatre by the Lake and how long some of them have been volunteering here with us. We have some volunteers who have been with us since the theatre opened, through to those who have just joined. There are a number of volunteers who have volunteered for 24 years, since Theatre by the Lake opened in 1999, and couple who started before then, volunteering in the Blue Box (Century Theatre).

Simon Stephens, our Executive Director, said this…

‘We’re incredibly lucky to have a thriving community of over 200 volunteers at Theatre by the Lake, who provide a friendly, welcoming and safe environment for our audiences. The contribution they make to the theatre is invaluable – we couldn’t do what we do without their generous commitment’

Volunteers’ Week 2023: Celebrate and Inspire! Read more about Volunteers Week here.

2023 marks the 39th year of Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), when Theatre by the Lake will join thousands of charities and voluntary organisations recognising the contribution volunteers make across the UK. With this year’s theme of ‘Celebrate and Inspire’ we hope to encourage people to be the change that we want to see and get involved in volunteering in whatever way works for them.

The contribution of volunteers is often unseen and unrecognised by many, visible only through the incredible impact of their volunteering, so taking the time during Volunteers’ Week to celebrate their efforts and all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector and society as a whole has never been more important.

Meet David, Fiona, Grace, Dave, Carol, Jackie, Tricia and Irena and Steve who met at the Theatre!

We asked David a few questions about his role as a volunteer with us, here’s what he said…

  • When did you start volunteering? About ten years ago.
  • Background/what did or do you do? I was a Chemistry teacher at Cockermouth School. I retired seven years ago and now spend time acting, directing and writing for theatres in Cumbria.
  • What has your favourite show been at TBTL? Studio – How my Light Is Spent – thought provoking and challenging, typical of Studio plays.
    Main House – Tom’s Midnight Garden – captivating and visually stunning, great theatre for all ages.
  • What do you like about volunteering? The chance to be involved with Cumbria’s main theatre. Interacting with and helping theatregoers. Chatting with other volunteers; likeminded people with a shared love of theatre.

Fiona said this…

I started volunteering in 2016…I think. I was working in a restaurant when I started volunteering.

How can I chose one show? There are too many ‘favourites.’ How My Light is Spent, Handbagged, Guards of the Taj, One man and two Guvnors, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and most recently Queen of Lenanne. All favourites for different reasons.

TBTL is a magical, inclusive venue with a great atmosphere which gives back much more to me than I give to it. I love meeting all the different theatre goers and answering their questions, gossiping with other volunteers and hearing their stories. Volunteering makes me feel part of a community and the staff seem to genuinely care about the volunteers. I am grateful for the perk of being able to see the shows and I love the post show discussions. I feel honoured to be a volunteer.

Dave was the Front of House Manager in the Blue Box (Century Theatre), before continuing this role when TBTL opened. Dave  retired from full time work at the theatre, but continued undertaking regular Front of House Manager shifts until March 2020, as well as volunteering… this is what he said…

Started in the mid to late 1980s

Favourite show: this is a hard one – A Christmas Carol (1999) – real magic, the first ever Christmas show!  The History Boys; The Wizard of Oz; The Hired Man; One Fine Day; The Railway Children …. there are so many. Handbagged is another, so is Dancing at Lughnasa and of course Chrissie Bohn’s one woman show – A Bogus Woman! The Lady In The Van. Kiss Of The Spider Woman. Sorry, I could go on! Just remembered  Anorak of Fire.

The buzz about the theatre; helping theatregoers have a great time; the smiling faces of people who on their way out  say “Thank-you” and being a small part of an incredible journey from the Blue Box to the fantastic Theatre by the Lake.

Grace is one of our under 18 volunteers, so is under our safeguarding policy… but she was really keen to share her experiences…

I started volunteering in November 2022. I am seventeen years old and studying for my A levels at School Sixth Form. I also belong to a drama group and am particularly interested in history, literature and art.

I think that all the productions at TBTL are of a very high standard and I have yet to experience one that I haven’t enjoyed or found interesting. My favourite show at Theatre by the Lake has been ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. The use of physical theatre was really effective in illustrating the monotony of Fogg’s life and then the fast-paced excitement of the journey around the world. The puppetry, in particular the elephant, brought the show to life. Passepartout was really funny and engaging. The revolving stage was very clever. Overall the show was charming, funny and thrilling.

What I like about volunteering at TBTL is being around such welcoming, friendly, supportive volunteers and members of staff. It is very flexible so I can fit my volunteering around my studies and choose to do more or less shifts on a rota depending on my other commitments. I also like seeing excellent pieces of theatre when I sit-in or use my complimentary tickets.

Irena and Steve… who met and married as volunteers at Theatre by the Lake…

Steve & Irena on their wedding day


Irena and Steve have been volunteering front of house at the theatre since 2009. They met whilst both were working behind the bar at Theatre by the Lake. Irena: I’m an artist and have self-published the Colour Sketch series of colouring packs. I’m also a qualified project manager and had for many years managed databases. I also did bar work at the theatre when I first arrived in Keswick. When you spend so much of working day behind a computer, volunteering at the theatre is a social breath of fresh air! It’s great meeting and greeting people coming to see a show, pointing them in the right direction, answering their questions.
It’s hard to pick one ‘favouite’ show. Bogus Woman from many years ago, was so moving, I was in tears. Krissi Bohn was amazing performing all the characters. The recent production of Around the World in 80 Days was a brilliant feast of clever theatre and sound. My favourite this year so far is Saltlines – the fusion between Raynor Winn’s words and Gigspanner’s music, creating something so much more.

Steve: I was a geography teacher for many years. Since moving to Keswick, I’ve worked for the National Trust and behind the bar at the theatre. I’ve now retired but maintain my connection with the theatre by becoming a volunteer. I am pleased to be doing something that helps support live theatre in Keswick and I enjoy the social side of the work.

One of my favourite shows from some years ago was The 39 Steps for its comedy and inventiveness, so I will be looking forward to the new 2023 production in August.

The 4 ladies below compile the rotas, which is a massive job. We estimate it takes about 400 hours a year. They take it in turns, 6 weeks of rota each throughout the year. Volunteering at TBTL is very flexible but that makes it a complicated puzzle to sort out!

Carol started working as a volunteer at the theatre when she was 60, many years ago!

It was the one thing I wanted to do when I retired. My husband offered to volunteer as well so it has been a shared activity. We had both worked in local schools, he as a teacher and me in admin/finance. There have been many memorable plays and it is difficult to pick any out. I loved On Golden Pond, performed in the round. I saw it 5 times and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. The Glass Menagerie stands out as a Studio play, more intimate and demanding. I was lucky enough to get tickets for Ian McKellan’s 80th birthday show and that was fantastic, the theatre had such a buzz.

I enjoy the ‘meet and greet’ as a volunteer and helping customers find their seats. I feel I have had a good evening if I have managed to chat more to some, perhaps telling me about the history of the theatre and the Blue Box.

Jackie said… I think I must have started volunteering about 8- 10 years ago. I started volunteering because I think the Theatre by the Lake is a fantastic asset to the area. I was a bank manager but was made redundant and took early retirement just over 2 years ago. I now work part time for my brother. My favourite show was Railway Children. I love volunteering at the theatre meeting people who are visiting on holiday and local people as well. I also really enjoy compiling the rotas.

We asked Tricia, when did you start volunteering? I started volunteering in the Autumn of 2014. Then two years later I offered to help with compiling the rota for the volunteers. I sent out my first availability return 7 years ago this month.  Before I retired and moved to Keswick I taught maths and IT. I also wrote the school timetable which I miss doing consequently writing the rota suits me fine.

What has your favourite show been at TBTL? I’ve seen and loved many shows and even before I moved to the Lake District I used to come on holiday here and always try and fit in a production. Though ironically, I can’t remember the name of the play, possibly my fondest memory was seeing a production in the Old Blue Box. I was captivated by the setting next to the lake and the quirkiness of the theatre.

What do you like about volunteering? I like seeing productions that I wouldn’t have thought to watch and meeting lots of interesting people. I also like being able to pick and chose different days to help out and I also like that by doing the rota I can work at home.

Eleanor said… “I think I started volunteering in 1996 in the days of the Blue Box though before that very occasionally volunteered and Linsey Temple was in charge. Volunteered through the 2 years of the temporary theatre in the old Keswick school Rawnsley hall and was there for the opening night in the wonderful new theatre. I trained at Birmingham College of Art in 3 dimensional design, taught for a few years but spent most of my working life working for Royal Mail in this gorgeous CA12 area. Discovered a love of theatre since living here firstly with wanting to get involved with sets and costumes for KAOS, progressing to acting in street theatre and KTC.  In 2004 I started providing accommodation for those coming to work at the theatre, mainly actors. Get a great deal out of doing that, they are all such interesting people. Just counted up how many – over 60. Over so many years volunteering have too many favourites to pick out one.”

Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet people either those coming to shows or the other volunteers. Love to soak up the atmosphere of being in the building and to feel part of the success of the theatre.

If you’d like to join our volunteers, contact Mary Elliott on